|A short trail which leads you past some amazing lava formations. If you are in the area, you really should take this trail.|
|Hike data||Waypoints||Maps||Getting to the trailhead||About the hike||Plants along the trail||Comments|
When we hiked it:
|Time it took us:||1:00.|
|LFTH||Trailhead||Lava Falls trailhead|
|Map name||Cartographer||Year||Scale||Topo map?||Online access||Notes|
|El Malpais Recreation Map and Guide||BLM||2008||1:100000||Y||from Amazon (purchase)||Great overview map for El Malpais area, including showing land ownership.|
|Geologic Map of El Malpais Lava Field and Surrounding Areas, Cibola County, NM||USGS (Charles Maxwell)||1986||1:62500||Y||No online copies.||For sale at the three visitor centers (NPS, BLM, Northern NM) around El Malpais.|
|Guide to Indian Country of Arizona Colorado New Mexico Utah||Automobile Club of Southern California||1998||1:0||N||from Amazon (purchase)||Good overview road map for northwest NM. No scale is given on the map. The corner coordinates are approximate.|
|Wildernesses of New Mexico||US Forest Service||1981||1:1000000||N||No online copies.||Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.|
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Getting to the trailhead:
Exit I-40 at Exit 89, NM 117. Head South on NM 117 for about 28.7 miles. A sign indicates the turnoff to the west for the Lava Falls Trailhead. Follow the gravel road for about 0.8 miles; it dead-ends at the trailhead.
About the hike:
This hike is a cairn trail. Starting out from the trailhead, you climb a small rise. This is all of the elevation gain you will get on the hike. Once you are on top of the rise, what you see is pictured to the right. There are pits where the lava collapsed into a hole. You are walking on pahoehoe lava, which is much nicer than hiking on aa lava.
After a short distance on top of the rise, you slowly descend into a valley. You can see where the lava flowed down into this valley off on the far wall.
Life on the lava is hard. This piñon is probably quite old, even though it is less than four feet high.
You reach the far side of the valley and then begin to follow the valley wall a short distance. Where the valley wall begins to turn right, you can see where the lava flowed over an old, burst pressure bubble in the lava, forming columns that look like dripped candle wax.
Following the lava fall around to the right, you enter a pit into which the lava flowed. The trail ends in the center of this pit; Take some time to look around at all of the different lava formations. Do look with care, as the lava is quite sharp.
A little to the left of center (if you are standing at the entrance to the pit), is a roughly 6ft (2m) deep crack with a fern growing in it. Obviously the climate at the bottom of the crack is moister than what you are experiencing at the top.
This "lavasicle" looks like a small stalactite.
Plants we saw along the trail:
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